100 Years Ago: Belleville’s Farewell to 155th Battalion, Appeal to Young Men, Recruiting for 5th Pioneer Battalion, Nursing Sister Jessie Morrice Writes Women of Patriotic Association

The Intelligencer May 31, 1916 (page 1)

“Belleville’s Farewell to the 155th Battalion. The soldier boys of Belleville have left our midst, and their absence is keenly felt. The members of A. Company of the 155th Battalion, which was mobilized in this city, left this morning for camp at Barriefield, and their going away will not soon be forgotten.

From the armouries on Pinnacle street and along Bridge street east, Front street and Dundas street, these thoroughfares were lined with fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sweethearts, and friends, all of whom were on hand to give a farewell greeting to the boys in khaki.

Shortly after 10 o’clock, the members of the battalion paraded from the armouries, being led by the fine regimental band under the leadership of Bandmaster Hinchey. Immediately following the band was Lt.-Col. Adams, commanding officer of the Battalion, Major Cook, and Capt. Gilmore, adjutant.

To the lively strains of martial music the boys were marched up Front street as far as Victoria avenue, when they reversed and proceeded down Front street to Dundas street, and thence to the Canadian Northern Railway station where they entrained for Kingston. The men were at several points greeted by cheers as they marched past with full marching equipment.

About the station thousands had gathered to bid adieu to the brave lads who were going to camp to equip themselves for active service at the front for King and Country. The occasion was a memorable one. Naturally the leave taking was not of the most pleasant nature for loved ones, yet all realized the boys were going forth on a mission that was most commendable. The greater portion of A. Company is composed of Belleville boys, who in addition to leaving loved ones, left many admiring friends. …

At 11.30 the second train moved off and upon this train were members of the 155th Battalion from Bancroft, Coe Hill, Marmora, Picton and Trenton. The bugle band of A. Company accompanied them. The battalion went to Barriefield in full strength numbering 1160 officers and men, and there is not the slightest doubt that it will be if not the best, one of the best battalions which will compose the camp at Barriefield.”

The Intelligencer May 31, 1916 (page 4)

“An Appeal to Young Men. Does it mean nothing to you, young men of Canada? At least thousands of you, enough to form many battalions, stand on the streets in civilian clothes watching splendid soldiers take one more step on the way to the battle front. You see the serious look on the faces of the majority of these men, you remarked on their business-like appearance, you notice that many of them were of middle age.

Did it mean nothing to you?

A few months ago all those splendid soldiers were civilians like yourselves. They have left their work in the office, in the factory, in the field—they have left hundreds of dear ones, their women and children behind.

Does it mean nothing to you?

There are undoubtedly some young men who can give a good excuse for still being in civilian clothes. But you, young man without encumbrances, are you very very sure that your own particular excuse is good? Have you responsibilities at home greater than the responsibilities of a large proportion of the soldiers you see on their way to the trenches. Are you sure you are not hiding behind petticoats?

Yes, it is an inspiring sight to see soldiers swinging to the march, and the stirring notes of ‘O Canada,’ and the ambulance waggons in the background, but is it only a pretty spectacle to you?

Remember, young man, these soldiers were on their way to fight FOR CANADA, for Canadian women and children, for Canadian freedom.

Does it mean nothing to you?”

The Intelligencer May 31, 1916 (page 7)

“Recruiting is now being carried on throughout this district for the 5th Pioneer Battalion, by Lieut. Geo. A. Butler, C.E., and Lieut. Quinlan of Montreal. Mechanics of every description are being accepted for this corps, for service at the front. As soon as the battalion is recruited to full strength they will go overseas.

The officers are all fully qualified engineers or contractors. The O.C. of the battalion is Lt.-Col. H.R. Lordly, C.E., who was connected with the engineering work on the Lachine Canal. Lieut. Butler and Lieut. Quinlan of the 5th Pioneers, left for Stirling this afternoon on a recruiting tour.”

The Intelligencer May 31, 1916 (page 7)

“To the Women of the Patriotic Association, Belleville, Ont. If I could paint for you a picture of the interior of one of the ‘War Blocks’ connected with the Folkstone Sanatorium on Christmas Day, 1915, you would, I am sure, feel amply repaid for all the time and care given to the preparation of the boxes that were sent to the Moore Barracks Hospital for our Canadian soldiers. …

I was ordered for immediate duty at Isolation Hospital to nurse Cerebro Spinal Meningitis. …  It is not necessary, nor would it be wise, to tell you of our very sick patients. The acute case of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis is one, that with all its possibilities, is heart-breaking to those in charge. But I would like to tell you that these men—they are practically all boys—constantly in pain and suffering bear themselves as good soldiers. …

In the other wards of the Hospital were soldiers, Canadian and Imperial, ill with mumps, measles, chicken pox, diphtheria and enteric fever.

Captain Palmer of the C.A.M.C. was in charge of our ward. …  Captain Palmer and I had much in common in our interest in Belleville, as he was in Belleville during the epidemic of Cerebro Spinal meningitis. He spoke frequently of the Belleville Hospital, of the kindness shown to himself and the excellent care given to the men by the matron and staff of the Hospital.

When we knew the boxes from Belleville had come, Captain Palmer kindly brought some of them down for us, when he came to visit the patients. We sisters got for the patients, fruit, candy, and nuts and for each a small present. These were put in the socks for the men along with art crackers and puzzles, etc., and were also served at dinner.

Then each man, not only in our ward, but every soldier in the Hospital, was given a Christmas stocking, that is, a pair of socks and one of the boxes from the Women’s League of Belleville.

When I tell you these men came from camps that were isolated, where on account of camp conditions, mail was irregular, they were strangers in a strange land, had no friends here—on account of the serious nature of the disease, the men from camp could not visit them, home was thousands of miles away, no home letters or parcels reached them, and Christmas always makes home more precious, can you, I wonder, realize then what this bit of Christmas meant to these boys? …

The boys were so delighted with the things from Canada, the boxes were opened—practically one at a time—and all gathered to see what the other found in his box; and their admiration did not exceed our own, for the amount of material and the wisdom in the choice of things put in was truly wonderful, we had no idea one small box could hold so much. …

May I  say that I heartily agree with the boys in their admiration and gratitude for the kindness and the constant care of the home folk. But I would also like to say that these men richly deserve all the best we have. They are not saints, we never thought they were, but they are good-hearted, honest, manly fellows and the more we work with them, the greater is our admiration for them. …

In closing I would ask you to pardon my delay in writing to thank you for the boxes and for allowing me the privilege of distributing these things to the soldiers. Of course, in isolation I could not write and later, illness and enforced absence from duty made it impossible.

Again thanking you for myself and the boys, I am, Very sincerely yours, Nursing Sister Jessie A. Morrice, C.A.M.C. Moore Barracks Hospital.”